I’ve been asked why right-wing Christians have such an obsession with the topic of Israel and Judaism. We started answering that question last time in describing how such Christians see themselves as a new and improved version of Jews. Today I’ll show you the other part of that answer: to put it simply, Israel and Jews themselves are absolutely required components of these Christians’ feverish fantasies about the end of the whole wide world.
A Strange Move.
A few months ago, Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel–though he appeared to be deeply “confused,” in the opinion of the New York Times (hopefully the link comes through okay–it’s acting wonky suddenly), about the logistics of that move. There’s been an ongoing discussion about what the status of Jerusalem itself should be on an international level. Only a few countries officially recognize the entire city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and with the exception of the United States they’re minor players on the world stage. So this whole situation seemed like Donald Trump taking one of his typical nose-dives into a really complicated geopolitical question that he is just not prepared to deal with.
(One of those few countries, incidentally, is Vanuatu–a paradise of islands that might be underwater in a few decades, and whose leader is known to belong to one of the flavors of Christianity that is obsessed with Israel. Not long ago when I was fooling around there on my VR, I noticed an Israeli flag hanging in a place of prominence in a large fundagelical church there. At the time it seemed so completely random that I screenshotted it and joked about it, but now I’m guessing that it, um, really wasn’t.)
Many folks were puzzled by Trump’s strange move. But one group was not at all puzzled.
They were, instead, elated.
As confused as Trump appears to be about, well, everything, this decision wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment announcement. It was the result of a campaign promise he’d made to a group that owns him always and forever.
That group was, of course, fundagelical Christians.1 They are dwindling in number–and indeed have been for years, with absolutely no bottom in sight to that decline. But they are largely credited with pushing Donald Trump into the office he’s so manifestly unqualified to hold, and they are now the group that is propping him up the hardest. No matter how much damage he does to the country and to the world, no matter how much he shreds their witness,2 they stand behind him solidly as their savior–and possibly as the man who will very literally march their tribe straight into the Endtimes.
And they think that this entire fantasy hinges upon Israel.
A Quick Primer on the Endtimes.
Fundagelicals have been fantasizing for many years about what they call the Endtimes. The term encompasses many dozens if not hundreds of little conspiracy theories that they’ve built up over the years to try to predict and control the progress of the end of the world as we know it.
Technically, the study of the end of the world is called eschatology. Eschatology is sort of like apologetics, except it deals with the end of the world. Eschatologists draw upon a number of resources to make their various predictions, from mangled and cherry-picked Bible verses to poorly-understood and badly-revised historical events to the prophecies that Christians both past and present have delivered on the topic.
Interchangeable with this term are the Last Days and the Endtimes.
The very best diagrams you will ever see out of Christianity come from these folks.
A World of Diagrams.
Endtimes diagrams are gloriously wacky things of convoluted, overblown intricacy. How can you see one and not think about what went into the making of it, the pride in workmanship, the breathless distribution of it, the awed response about what is, essentially, complete ad hoc nonsense?
Friends, there is nothing about Christian diagrams that fails to make me as happy as a cat on a heated rug.
One of those prophecies that’s always enjoyed popularity is the notion of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. It comes from Daniel 9:24-27, which Christians believe concerns the Last Days.
This diagram pretty much covers all of the ones about the Seventy Weeks conspiracy theory. Modern diagrams omit the awesome Big Warrior Dude Statue (notice the materials printed across him? head is gold, chest is silver, etc.–I could just go on and on; if you want some fun times, here’s the Wiki page about the Baptist creator of it, and he’s got even better stuff than this!). Others pretty up the lines and simplify things, though I think these simplifications are really missing out on the dusty-library anachronistic feel of their wackadoodle heritage. In any event, the “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks” concept hasn’t changed much since 1919, when this diagram was created.
In this reckoning, Old and New Testament history is broken up into “weeks” by Daniel. These diagram-makers think that each week represents seven years, rather than seven days. Different things happen during each week. Between the 69th and 70th week, there’s a huge gap of a length nobody can guess at in which Christianity nestles, and then in the 70th week everything hits the fan.
Another I like is this one drawn up by some earnest Christian going by the Book of Revelation. Part of it involves “NO MORE DELAY/john eats the small scroll.” I just have no words.
This sort of diagram is made by Christians who are trying very hard to pair up very high-flown metaphorical, apocalyptic language with real-world history and events (like this guy does). It’s more of that ad hoc reasoning I was talking about–where they just make stuff up that fits their imagined outcome and decide that’s totally the right answer. And they’ve been doing it since well before I was Christian! I remember seeing some headline about Israel on the news in the late 1980s and then hearing a sermon quickly afterward fitting it with Revelation, and everyone was panicking about the Rapture again. Like with any conspiracy theory’s specific dates, though, once some event had failed to bring about the Endtimes, it was simply ignored in favor of the next one(s).
There is no way that diagrams like this one could possibly fail to put any unwary Christians seeing them straight into “Duh Mode” as they struggle to absorb all the metaphors and unfamiliar language involved. They just look so intricate and have so much detail–and are peddled by so many super-earnest Christians who seem so certain of their beliefs–that I can’t remember anyone at all rejecting one. I’ve never even heard of that happening, at least not by any Christian who sincerely believed that the Rapture was totally coming Any Day Now™–just as I’ve never once heard of any diagram making specific predictions that actually came true.
You haven’t lived, either, till you’ve heard a pair of fervent Christians having a verbal duel with slightly-differing diagrams. It is just so bizarre to listen to; even when I was Christian I got that distinct taste of them being a pair of kids arguing about what comic-book artist drew Batman’s cape the most correctly.
Why Christians Need Endtimes Predictions.These feverish conspiracy theories about the end of the world serve a couple of important functions within Christianity.
First, Christians think these retrofitted prophecies and diagrams illustrate the reality of their faith. Nothing could be further from the truth, but they seriously think that they’re creating documents that PROVE YES PROVE that their religious claims are true in reality. Many even think that what they’re doing is evangelistic or revitalizing in nature–that they will both encourage and galvanize Christians, and convert or at least sway non-Christians. I don’t know how accurate this belief is in the main, but I can tell you that they did play a role in Biff’s decision to join the church he did after he was totally exorcised at a Sunday night service.
The other and equally important goal for adherents is to get some kind of a handle on–and to feel prepared a little better for–the events they imagine are coming our way. In this way, they are as important as a Christian prepper’s stockpile of guns and awful dried food. They remind Christians to stay prayed up and right with God, as they put it, and push them to stand strong on culture-war issues.
Why They Need Israel and Jews.
You see, God has a plan for the world and it all centers around Israel.
James Bagg, Waiting for Armageddon
Because the books of the Bible were written largely by people who considered themselves Jews who were drawing upon Old Testament ideas and mythology, a lot of it–surprisingly, shockingly, OMG how could this be–involves Israel and Jewish people. But to Christians, that just means that Israel and Jews are yet more supporting players in the narcissistic fantasy they have about The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI).
After some years of confused meandering about exactly what will happen in the Last Days, Christians have settled into a broad consensus, probably thanks in great part to the popularity of the Left Behind franchise. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail about exactly what their imaginary Endtimes plot is; it’s as interesting as listening to someone you’ve never met describing a really weird dream they had last night and a lot of it hinges upon contradictory ideas and flat-out impossibilities like the UN suddenly turning into a completely authoritative ruling power in and of itself. Literally the only way anyone could ever buy into the specific details that Christians have developed over recent decades is if they already buy into the general themes.
(You can see a general timeline here, but bear in mind that the place of the Rapture in that list is not one of the elements in consensus with Rapture-believing Christians as a whole. Hardcore Christians go in for a post-Tribulation Rapture.)
Suffice to say that a lot of the next-level miraculous events, they think, will occur in Israel–many in Jerusalem itself. And Jews themselves will figure prominently in world events as well, both by converting in massive numbers and, well, by breathing literal fire at some point. There’ll be a massive world war somewhere in there too, with pretty much every army in the world allying against Israel, but they will lose.
So yes indeedy, these Christians think that the people who pretty much reject every single aspect and idea in the New Testament are going to participate in the Christian Endtimes and get totally on board with the Messiah they rejected 2000 years ago and continue to reject today.
And that would have to be a miracle!
Fundagelicals aren’t thinking this through at all–as usual. Remember, they are the kings of all-or-nothing thinking. Even one single element out of place wrecks everything.
If Israel isn’t a sovereign nation, that throws everything off.
If all of the world’s Jews refuse to return to Israel, that destroys the prophecies entirely.
And if America, which is Israel 2.0 in supersessionism, fails to support Israel, then they will be moving against the very will of their god.
So fundagelicals will support anything Israel does–and always have, ever since they became a political force at least. Israel can do no wrong by definition, under Christians’ hazy understanding of morality as a might makes right proposition. Coming down on the side of the Palestinians is absolute heresy–unthinkable, for anyone who wants to remain a member in good standing of the worst tribe on the planet. And the American politicians pandering to them–or worse yet are in full accord with fundagelicals’ political agendas, like Michele Bachmann is–will often even put Israeli interests above American ones. Their support of Israel might well be one of the few ideas and doctrines that unite fundagelicals across the board (though I’ve seen surveys that indicate that that support is flagging among younger ones).
And the hilarious part, as I alluded to last time, is that Jews appear to be well aware of just why fundagelicals seem so gung-ho in support of them politically (and geopolitically). For some reason, the idea of becoming political props in the worst fantasy ever doesn’t thrill them to their toes–and this lack of warm returned feelings angers and confuses fundagelicals, a position that was exemplified beautifully by this guy, who got visibly ruffled by the idea that “Jews don’t return the favor” he thinks his tribe is grandly and generously bestowing upon them. He’s not ruffled enough to withdraw that support, of course–he’s just feeling peevish and whiny about not feeling appreciated for it.
So rest assured: American fundagelicals love the opposition that Israel is experiencing from so many countries–but they also love that their own country, which they believe to be Israel 2.0 anyway, supports Israel so wholeheartedly.
A Sobering Thought.
As funny as I find their overblown fantasies and (oooooh yes) their silly trying-so-hard diagrams, this is the part of things that is way less funny. This is the part where fundagelicals encourage and support the next literal World War because they think it’ll bring Jesus back faster. This is why they literally consider world peace–often lampooned as an overused example of the most altruistic wish for the world that anybody could possibly have–to be Satanic and something that their god would never allow anyway.
And this is one of the biggest reasons why we must oppose them ever getting their grabby little hands on our government.
I know exactly how often fundagelicals believe that they must help their god along in various things they think he wants. I really don’t want a “Hallelujah, Hallelujah” moment when one of ’em decides to take a more aerobic role in helping TEOTWAWKI along when their prophecies don’t appear to be naturally moving fast enough for their liking.
1 Fundagelical is a portmanteau of evangelical and fundamentalist. I don’t consider it a a pejorative, and it is something I use to save typing and keep things tidy-looking. When I was Christian, there were still significant differences between the two groups. Now there is very little difference at all. Mainly we’re looking at a group that seriously thinks that the Bible is literally true and inerrant, that Christians should rule America and get to determine what our laws and human rights will look like, and that sharia law is really only bad because it’s an Islamic idea.
2 In Christian circles, one’s witness is a general assessment of their character, their reputation, and their visible signs of devotion to Christianity itself. The worst thing in the world is to lose one’s witness. Once lost, it’s thought impossible to regain (not true at all in practice–but that’s the belief at least). A witness forms the main part of a Christian’s “Jesus Aura” — that godlike quality about them that is thought to draw in non-believers like moths to flame, all eager to find out what it is about that Christian that makes them sooooo different from everyone else. Having a good witness is, therefore, considered by many of them to be an evangelism tool in and of itself.
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